Top 10 employee stress-busting techniques for management (12/03/2014)

Excessive stress can not only affect workplace performance, it is also one of the UK’s biggest causes of employee absence, responsible for more than half of all working days lost every year.

By following a few simple steps however, an effective stress management programme can be implemented to minimise its impact on employees and employers alike.

PMI Health Group’s expert healthcare consultants offer 10 top tips for shielding employees from the harmful consequences of stress and anxiety.

1/ System overload: Most employees regard a good day’s work as a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Push staff too hard however, and physical, psychological and emotional fatigue can set in. Excessive workload may lead to a higher level of output in the short term, but the health issues it can cause means this is unlikely to be maintained over the longer term.

It should be possible for employees to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities within the time available. To ensure this is the case, managers should regularly review workload demands and realistically assess employees’ capacities.

2/ A question of capability: Stress will invariably result where there is a discrepancy between workplace demands and an individual’s ability to meet expectations.

Managers should familiarise themselves with their employees’ duties and make every effort to ensure they have the necessary training and tools to carry out their tasks, particularly when they are expected to adapt to new workplace responsibilities.

3/ Unleashing mental resilience: Pressure is a part of our daily lives but some of us are better able to deal with it than others. Advice and training to staff on how best to build mental resilience can deliver significant benefits.

The value of mindfullness – a meditation-based approach to stress management – for example is increasingly being recognised as a means to help employees cope under stress and is being used by organisations such as Google, the NHS, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Home Office.

4/ Psychological support: Employees suffering with stress should be provided with confidential counselling and access to information on support, advice and self-help groups. Employers should look at their benefits provision and make employees aware of any schemes that may support them. EAPs, for example, can provide face-to-face counselling sessions.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), supported by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is increasingly being used to tackle anxiety and depression and is supported by NICE.

Individuals requiring counselling should be granted time off work to receive treatment.

5/ All work and no play:  Monitor employees working hours and ensure they build time into their working day for adequate breaks, particularly at lunch. They should be advised to periodically step away from their working environments, with fresh air often helping to clear heads, enabling staff to focus better on their return. Even when business pressures demand increasing employee workloads, staff should be given regular breaks during which they can engage with colleagues.

Managers should also ensure employees take their full holiday entitlement. If the right work-life balance is reached, staff will enjoy going to work and be able to ‘switch-off’ when they leave.

Stress can often occur when staff feel they’re working too hard and neglecting other important areas of their lives. Where possible, introduce flexible working practices to encourage a healthy work-life balance and to support staff with pressures outside of work, such as caring responsibilities.

6/ Nurture a caring ethos: Managers and supervisors can make a big difference by fostering workplace cultures that encourage positive relationships between management and employees. Employees, for example, should be recognised and praised for their achievements and made to feel a part of business decision-making.

7/ Somewhere to turn: If relationships of trust have been fostered between employees and managers, most staff grievances should be solved quickly and informally.

Suitable complaints and support procedures should still be in place however to ensure grievances are appropriately aired and handled when they arise. Employees should also have access to union or staff representatives.

8/ Knowledge is power: Sharing knowledge with employees will empower them and make them feel more at ease. Communicating in a clear, open and honest fashion when implementing organisational change or revising working practices will therefore go a long way to minimising anxiety.

If staff are able to see the bigger picture, they will have greater understanding of why and where change is occurring. 

9/ Help managers manage: Supervisors and line managers should be given training, where appropriate, on best practice to establish a two-way dialogue with staff. Poor communication is generally regarded as being one of the leading causes of workplace stress.

Where required, employees should be given guidance on prioritising tasks and organising their time. They should also be given an opportunity to provide feedback on work matters that might lead to unnecessary stress, whether via formal meetings or through informal discussions.

10/ A benchmark for best practice: It is advisable for companies to measure their workplace environment against the Health & Safety Executive’s Management Standards. These define the characteristics, or culture, of organisations that have implemented best practice in stress risk management. 

PMI Health Group welcomes new Senior Consultant (10/03/2014)

PMI Health Group, the UK’s largest independently-owned specialist provider of employee healthcare services, has appointed Rebecca Pool as Senior Consultant.

Bringing 17 years of industry experience to the role, Rebecca’s new position will involve advising corporate organisations with strategic advice on their employee benefit provision.

Rebecca said: “PMI’s consultancy approach is highly regarded throughout the industry and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Rebecca joins the company from Punter Southall where she set up its specialist Healthcare Consulting practice in 2006.

“Working at large organisations within the healthcare sector has given Rebecca a wealth of experience in dealing with employee wellbeing requirements,” said Richard Munro, Managing Director at PMI Health Group.

“We are confident her expertise will be invaluable in bolstering our team.”

Cash plans as popular as health insurance for UK workers (06/03/2014)

Cash plans have become as popular as health insurance among UK workers, independent research has revealed.

A new study1, conducted by global research consultancy TNS on behalf of PMI Health Group, discovered 11 per cent of staff rank cash plans as their most valued benefit2. Private medical insurance (PMI) also received 11 per cent of vote amongst surveyed employees.

Contributory pensions proved most popular (31 per cent), followed by life insurance (12 per cent).

“Cash plans compliment traditional health insurance and their relatively low tax liability makes them a particularly attractive benefit option,” said Mike Blake, Director PMI Health Group.

“By covering a variety of essential day-to-day healthcare needs – from optical and dental to chiropractic and physiotherapy – they enjoy a high perceived value for staff, despite representing a low cost policy to employers.”

According to the study, cash plans rise in popularity among those who earn less than the UK’s average salary of £27,000 a year3, with 13 per cent of these employees choosing it as their most valued benefit. In contrast, only eight per cent of these lower wage earners value PMI highest.

This trend is reversed among those earning more than the national average – 13 per cent of whom value PMI the highest with only eight per cent choosing cash plans.

“Although cash plans have become as popular as health insurance, the findings of this study also attest to the assertion that one size rarely fits all,” added Mike.

“Companies should consult employees where possible and consider their benefit preferences alongside their own wider business goals.

“Budgetary constraints can make PMI provision for an entire workforce financially prohibitive but cash plans and other innovative new healthcare policies, such as flexible hybrid schemes, offer viable, inclusive, alternatives.”

1The research was conducted online by global research consultancy TNS Omnibus among 600 adults, aged 16-64, who are currently in full or part-time employment in Great Britain. The interviewed sample was weighted to represent the adult population of Great Britain.

2Staff ranked benefits from a finite list, including all UK major benefits currently offered to staff (contributory pension schemes, health insurance, company car schemes, life insurance, income protection insurance, health screenings, critical illness cover, counselling or EAPs, childcare vouchers and cash plans).

3Source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2013.

PMI Health Group Awarded Three-Star Rating by Customer Service Watchdog (10/02/2014)

PMI Health Group has been rewarded for excellence in customer service after achieving top marks from an independent watchdog.

Investor in Customers (IIC) awarded the specialist provider of employee healthcare a three-star rating – a mark attained by less than 12 per cent of companies undergoing a first-time assessment.

The score puts PMI Health Group in the top 16 per cent of all IIC-accredited companies and represents the second-highest among insurance-related businesses.

Tony Barritt, Lead Consultant, IIC said: “In a highly competitive market like employee healthcare, satisfying customers is no longer good enough. You have to excel, to deliver an exceptional customer experience every time and to continue to look for improvements every year.

“There is no doubt that PMI Health Group is fully deserving of our highest award as their scores at all levels were truly remarkable.”

IIC requested frank feedback from 166 of PMI Health Group’s customers during the extensive audit process.

PMI Health Group achieved an average score of 8.36 out of 10 after being graded for how well staff  understand customer needs, meet customer needs, delight customers and create loyalty. An average of more than eight is required to achieve a three-star rating.

The most popular words used by customers to describe the company were ‘professional’, ‘efficient’ and ‘friendly’.

“The three-star score from IIC provides recognition for the hard work undertaken by our staff into developing successful and lasting relationships with our customers,” said Richard Munro, Managing Director, PMI Health Group.

“We view every piece of business as a partnership and strive to work with each customer by offering ongoing consultancy to ensure the products and services they use remain suitable in the long-term.”